NYC restaurant feeding essential workers during coronavirus

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A West Village restaurant has transformed itself into a delivery service for essential workers on the front lines of COVID-19.

The Village Den — a health-focused eatery at 225 W. 12th St. that serves up smoothies, frittatas and updated dishes like sweet potato and mushroom lasagna — is delivering meals to essential workers during the crisis, and inviting customers to donate discounted dinners en masse.

In the three weeks since their first delivery, The Village Den says it provided 4,500 meals to the city’s front-line hospitals, including Bellevue, Mt. Sinai Beth Israel, Elmhurst and New York Presbyterian-Manhattan. The restaurant’s co-owners, Lisle Richards and Eric Marx, are personally delivering them along with a small group of volunteers.

While that works out to some 200 plus meals a day, it’s still less than half the restaurant’s total volume prior to COVID-19, the owners say. In addition to sit-down breakfast, lunch and dinner, the eatery had a robust catering and special-events business, the proprietors said.

“We are charging enough per meal to approximately cover our labor and cost of each meal,” Marx told The Post. “These meals at cost do not make us a profit nor does it bring our business to a break-even. It does, however, help us support the community that has supported us since we opened.”

The restaurant is making the meals available to donate in packs of five, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Currently, they’re set at $10 each — a 35 percent to 40 percent discount off their regular price, according to Marx.

“We’d been looking to understand what our role was in helping the city out when one of our regulars asked if she could send meals to the Lenox Health Greenwich Village hospital, which is next to our restaurant,” Richards said.

Richards and Marx — who also own the Wayfarer in Midtown — reached out to the hospital to arrange delivery of the donated meals. After documenting the delivery to the restaurant’s Instagram, they got overwhelmed with requests to make donations.

“We didn’t expect what came to pass,” Richards said. “So many people reached out, expressing a desire to help out, either by donating meals or volunteering to deliver meals.”

Recent forecasts highlight the devastating economic effects the pandemic will have on the US restaurant industry, with some predicting $240 billion in losses by the end of 2020. The Village Den has applied to the Paycheck Protection Program and is awaiting a decision from the Small Business Administration.

“We, as well as all of the restaurants that remain in New York, are operating at a loss,” Richards says. But because of the delivery program’s success, “we have been lucky to hire back over half those employees furloughed as well as give a more full-time schedule to existing employees,” he adds.


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